Thursday, February 23, 2017

Growth Mindset and Learning to be an Open Water Swimmer

I'm at a conference for community college leaders in San Francisco.  As soon as the meeting ends, before I race to the airport, I plan to go down to the Aquatic Park and swim.  By myself.  In the ocean (granted in a protected bay).  How did I get to the point that this is even possible?

It is about a growth mindset.  I've been reading Carol Dweck and attending conference sessions on how we can teach students to have a growth mindset. A growth mindset is the belief that your brain can change and you can learn new things even as an adult.

In education we talk about cultivating a students' ability to learn, and even more importantly, their belief that they can learn. This is the growth mindset.  Instead of saying "this is hard so I can't do this" we encourage students to say "this is hard and struggling is part of learning, so I will persist in learning this.  Students often try once, fail, and drop out.  We discuss how we can grow persistence and the ability to learn how to learn in a specific discipline.

What does this have to do with my desire to swim at the aquatic park? Over the past few years I have taught myself, with the help of a lot of friends (thank you Notorious Alki Swimmers) and the internet, how to be an open water swimmer. How to read the water. How to know when it is safe. How to know if it is warm enough. What to do if I'm in distress. This was a struggle for me. At times scary. At times I failed.  But I persisted in figuring it out, due to a growth mindset. I set out to learn how to be a swimmer and what that means.  It was a new discipline for me.

This blog has chronicled my going from a novice to a solid intermediate swimmer.  I'm still not and expert, and will enjoy continuing to learn. I did it because I believed I could.  I'll post my swim in the Aquatic Park when I can!

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